Eaton County officials make 9-1-1 Surcharge pitch to public

CHARLOTTE, MI (WLNS) – 911 dispatchers are the lifeline between the public and first responders and officials in Eaton County are looking to strengthen that bond, but they need resident’s help.

Tuesday night, they hosted the first of two public forms to lay out their plan to pay for a major radio upgrade.

Eaton County officials say their radio system is outdated and pretty soon they will not be able to repair it.

This would affect how dispatchers and first responders communicate every day, which is crucial to public safety.

That’s why this November, the public has the chance to fund a new radio project and county officials want them to know what the upgrade will cost.

“We have a lot of challenges with the current system just being reliability just older equipment so an older piece fails and sometimes it can bring down radios across the county,” Michael Armitage said.

He’s the Director of Eaton County Central Dispatch.

“When first responders are going to a call sometimes they have to bring in multiple radios and even within our county there’s part of the county that they just don’t have radio coverage as it is, so there’s part of the county right now where first responders may not be able to use their radios which is a huge concern,” he said.

Eaton County officials are making a pitch to the public about a 911 surcharge that will help move its current system, to the Michigan Public Safety Communications System.

“I know it’s hard sometimes you don’t see the radios, you don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes, but this is a vital piece of equipment for first responders,” Armitage said.

This project includes Eaton County Dispatch to get additional radio towers, upgrade its system, give all first responder agencies in the county new radios and pagers, and improve the overall coverage allowing first responders to communicate with surrounding agencies.

This 911 surcharge will cost Eaton County residents up to $1.75 per phone line each month.

For example: if you have three people in your house that each has a phone line that would cost roughly $63 per year.

“It’s very cheap insurance to have, to ensure that we have safety in the county,” Eaton County Commissioner Kent Austin said.

Austin is encouraging voters in the county to consider this proposal.

“Public safety is all encompassing starting with 911,” he said. “And if you don’t have an adequate system to communicate that, that’s when we have problems.”

Almost 70 counties in Michigan access a county 911 surcharge, so this isn’t out of the ordinary.

There will be another public forum on this project next week on Monday. It will be in Charlotte this time, at the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.

Click these links for more information on the proposal.

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